TAMPA —The Lightning made a splash with Thursday's Jonathan Drouin blockbuster trade, addressing its biggest long-term need by acquiring potential top-pairing defenseman Mikhail Sergachev from the Canadiens.
This move was as much about the future as the present. There's no guarantee that Sergachev, 18, starts next season in Tampa Bay, but he has the potential to set up the franchise for years to come as a very valuable, coveted piece (at a salary cap-friendly price).
And GM Steve Yzerman doesn't sound like he's done addressing his blue line this summer. He still has the forward depth, and cap room, to acquire an established defenseman who could have an immediate impact.
"We'll look at anything," Yzerman said. "(Sergachev) doesn't take me out of trying to acquire another defenseman. If another defenseman is out there and is a fit and makes us better, we'd look at it for sure."
The Lightning likely reached out to the Wild (about Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin) and Islanders (about Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan) leading up to Saturday's 3 p.m. roster freeze, knowing both teams have a glut of defensemen and couldn't protect all of them for Wednesday's expansion draft. Those players, among others, could be available this summer.
Some would have a stiff price, sparking the question of whether the Lightning is open to dealing Tyler Johnson (who can be a restricted free agent July 1) and Drouin this offseason. But Tampa Bay also has a deep prospect pool it can dip into.
"They have opened up some possibilities," said Craig Button, a former general manager in the league.
SLAP SHOTS: With the Drouin deal, Yzerman has now traded three of his six first-round picks with the Lightning (defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and forward Brett Connolly are the others). He might lose another one, defenseman Slater Koekkoek (2012), in the expansion draft. … Though Drouin's camp and the Lightning never exchanged contract proposals (or talked money with Drouin facing restricted free agency this summer), seeing him sign a six-year deal worth $5.5 million annually with Montreal shortly after the trade shows why he might have been a tough salary cap fit for the Lightning going forward. … The more you read, and hear, out of Montreal, a good portion of Canadiens fans are upset about losing Sergachev. Elliotte Friedman, an NHL reporter for Canada's Sportsnet TV network, said it is telling that Montreal wouldn't trade Sergachev for anyone, including Avalanche forward Matt Duchene, at the March trade deadline. … Hearing that forward prospect Nikita Gusev will take a wait-and-see approach this year before considering the Lightning or re-signing in Russia after next season, the final year of his KHL contract. … Button, the director of scouting for Canada's TSN sports TV network, thinks two good options — and fits — for the Lightning with the No. 14 pick in Friday's amateur draft are defensemen Cal Foote (Kelowna, junior Western League), son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote, and defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph (Charlottetown, Quebec Major Junior League), younger brother of Tampa Bay forward prospect Mathieu Joseph.
What: To fill the roster of the Vegas Golden Knights, which paid $500 million to become the NHL's 31st franchise and begins play next season.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Las Vegas. The Golden Knights' 30 picks will be announced during the NHL awards show (NBCSN).
How it works: Each of the 30 other teams will lose one player. Vegas will pick 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. Teams had until 5 p.m. Saturday to submit a list of the players they wanted to protect from being drafted; the lists will be made public at 10 a.m. today. Teams could use one of two list options: protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie.
Rules: Players with a no-movement clause in their contract must be protected unless they agreed to waive it.
• First- and second-year pros are exempt (such as Lightning forward Brayden Point, a rookie last season).
• Teams must expose at least one defenseman and two forwards who are under contract for next season and played in 40 or more NHL games last season (or 70 or more in the prior two). One goaltender who is under contract for next season or is a restricted free agent must be exposed.
• Vegas has until 10 a.m. Wednesday to make its selections. It also has an exclusive negotiating window, starting at 10 a.m. today with teams' unprotected restricted and unrestricted free agents; if one is signed, he counts as the player that team loses in the expansion draft.
Are there trades? There should be plenty. Teams have an option of making a side deal with Vegas in order to control what player they might be able to keep or lose in the draft. Those trades will be announced Wednesday.
Lightning's projected protection list
Our best guess for which players will be protected.
Steven Stamkos: The captain (left) is a lock, even if he didn't have a no-move clause.
Nikita Kucherov: The 40-goal scorer last season put himself in the MVP conversation.
Ryan Callahan: He has injury issues and a tough contract ($5.8 million cap hit each of the next three seasons), but his no-move clause guarantees protection.
Tyler Johnson: The 2015 All-Star can be a restricted free agent July 1 and is hoping for a long-term deal.
Ondrej Palat: The versatile forward, who also can be a restricted free agent, is the engine for any line he's on.
Alex Killorn: Fans would like to lose the contract (six more years at $4.45 million each), but the power forward was dubbed part of team core last season by GM Steve Yzerman.
Vladislav Namestnikov: The center can play all situations, is on a relatively cheap contract and is a favorite of Kucherov.
Victor Hedman: A Norris Trophy finalist this year, Hedman (right) is just starting an eight-year contract extension.
Anton Stralman: He has two more years left at an affordable $4.5 million each.
Jake Dotchin: As a rookie last season, he emerged as strong partner for Hedman on the top pairing down the stretch, providing a physicality the team lacked.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Next season will be his first full one as the Lightning's No. 1.
Who could the Lightning lose?
It will likely lose a defenseman. The candidates include Braydon Coburn, Slater Koekkoek, Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr. Bottom-six forwards J.T. Brown and Cedric Paquette could be plucked as role players. Or Vegas could sign forward Yanni Gourde, who can be an unrestricted free agent July 1, during its exclusive negotiation window.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.